Some two weeks back FoS featured the Samsung Galaxy S6, a device that has been greatly received around the world and has seen a mini revival from the company in terms of its flagship smartphone market, results of which are expected to be reported in Q2 after the slight decrease in Q1 when compared quarter-over-quarter.
Market results aside, the combined launched of the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge has sparked even more interest for the Galaxy S franchise, so much so that the company still lags behind production numbers to keep up with the demand. Although they may appear as different devices, the SGS6 and SGS6 Edge are intrinsically the same, minus the obvious exception of the curved screen on the latter. But does this make a world of difference, and will users actually make use of these features?
Build and Design
Before getting into the technical details and layout of the SGS6 Edge, there’s no escaping the obvious, it’s a beautifully impressive design. The curved screen really makes all the difference here. The glass is tapered on either end of the unit, which gives an appearance of a never-ending display with no frame. The frame, which can be viewed from an angle, is extremely thin, no doubt raising concerns from prospective buyers and owners in yet another Bendgate saga. While I can’t attest to the endurance and strength of the double glass (Corning’s Gorilla Glass 4) and metal frame, there was no evidence to suggest that it would bend in my pocket. Surely users shouldn’t expect any smartphone to survive the crushing weight while in your back pocket when you sit down. What I do have some concerns about is how it feels in hand. Beautiful it might be, and while you will no doubt want the world to see your newly purchased, edged smartphone, I’ve never felt so conscious of lifting a smartphone out of my pocket in a public area attempting to answer a call. There’s always that fear in the back of my mind that, because of the double glass and thin metal side frames, it would simply slip out and fall, shattering before my eyes. But this didn’t happen. Two weeks may not be a long enough period to attest that this won’t happen to you, but I survived. And the SGS6 Edge survived too.
Viewing the unit front on creates all the appeal. It’s the changing angle that raises quite a few questions. As with the SGS6, the Edge has its audio jack, top-mounted SIM tray, and machine-drilled speaker grill at the bottom, with the volume rocker now also having two distinct keys, all point to a Cupertino influence, and this troubles me. While the overall device looks unlike anything amongst its competitors, Samsung could have easily avoided these glaring similarities, if not simply by looking at the iPhone, against which the two respective companies have been in battle over design infringements for years.
Having had a few minutes of hands on during the world announcement of the SGS6 and Edge from MWC in March, I was immediately captivated by the look, and even more so the added functionality (including Samsung Pay) introduced. While reviewing the SGS6, I figured at the time that the appeal for the Edge may just have been temporary, since the performance would, no doubt, be quite similar. The curved edges make for much easier and smoother feeling swipes across the screen, and just screams of a premium smartphone. Clearly, the SGS6 Edge is a work of art, but you may want to refrain from handling the unit where possible.
Screen and Display
Samsung has fitted a 5.1” Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen onto the SGS6 Edge. From this stat alone, you’d be forgiven for thinking that these are the same displays. While the technology may be the same in terms of the display, its curved nature means a small difference in the dimensions. Inherently, the curved display would mean that the same 5.1” should be narrower in build, and this it is, but only slightly. The unit now measures 142.1×70.1x7mm over the SGS6’s 143.4×70.5×6.8mm; in short that is longer, narrower, and slightly thicker. The almost frameless design also means that the screen-to-body ratio has increased to 71.7% over 70.7%.
As with the SGS6, the display is brilliantly bright and detailed. The QHD display with its 1440x2560px resolution remains the best screen on the market, with the highest PPI to boot. But, again, it’s the curvature that raises questions again. When viewing, the edges appear more reflective, and this is good, but then things turn sour when you realise that often these same edges cause certain details to be missing from view. To explain, think of the two devices, SGS6 and SGS6 Edge, side-by-side. Viewing the former you’ll get a view of the full 5.1” display, but on the latter, the edges taper off causing some viewing concerns when not at the correct, full-frontal, angle. But these edges are not entirely for show, as Samsung suggests, and have more than a few useful tricks of its own, which we’ll cover next.
Will You (use) Edge?
And that’s the big question here. Since the SGS6 and SGS6 Edge have the same specifications, with only slightly different batteries, 2550mAh vs 2600mAh, respectively, we’ll dive straight into the performance and functionality of having the Edge over a conventional screen, and whether it’s worth your while forking out the additional Rands you worked so hard to earn.
In the Settings menu, you’ll notice the added option for Edge screen settings. These settings include the ability to receive an information stream, for your configuration, on the selected edge. This stream is able to provide feeds for your Facebook and Twitter accounts, weather, stocks, and notifications such as missed calls and SMSes, as well as the option to download a few more from the Samsung Apps store when they become available. Users can access this stream when the screen is turned off and triggered by means of a “simple” swipe gesture on the edge. While a simple up and down swipe is all that required, I found this tricky to activate when I started using it. After a few attempts, however, I managed to get the hang of it, although there’s still a one second lag between the end of your gesture and the display of the stream, often causing confusion on whether it triggered or not. You can swipe up and down to scroll between the different feeds, and then left and right to scroll an individual feed with more than one notification.
Another of the features used when the screen is turned off is that of the Edge Lighting, which is the received call option. But before delving into that, there is the small discussion of the people shortcut tied to this feature. On the homescreen menu, there is a slider menu displayed towards the top of the screen, either on the left or right, depending on the configuration. This screen provides a short list of important and frequent contacts you wish to add. Although still part of the overall Android notifications, users can filter through the clutter using this option by selecting the specific contact and viewing messages, calls or emails they have sent. While this is a great method to work through 100s of mails and messages we receive daily, it is still quite limited in that it doesn’t allow for other social and web-based apps such as whatsapp, Facebook and Twitter, despite clear evidence in the above-mentioned stream that this is possible. This contact shortcut also provides a useful function in providing reminders by detecting that the phone has been picked up off the surface and then highlights any missed messages and calls from these contacts.
Now moving onto the Edge Lighting feature. This feature ties in with the above in that each of the selected contacts are colour separated. When the phone is lying face down and you receive a call, if the contact is from one of those you’ve chosen, it will flash the corresponding light, making it easier to identify who is calling. When your phone is on silent and you’re in a meeting, this proves itself very useful in identifying who is calling and whether you should answer urgently or not. It does take some time, however, to memorise your full contact colour list. In addition to this, users also have the option to preset an SMS that will be used in the event users are unable to answer. And this is triggered by simply pressing your finger on the fingerprint scanner for two seconds, making quick and easy to perform.
On The Edge – Concerns/Issues
On the downside, these settings aren’t as optimised as I would have liked. For starters, the edge option can only be configured to one side of the screen at a time. And this also makes things interesting when wanting to use the face-down option. For instance, if you have the edge option available on the right hand side of the screen, then when you flip it over it becomes the left. Nothing strange here, but when you consider, for example, since I hold the phone in my left hand, using my right hand for screen navigation, I tend to place all my devices on my left hand side. Using the right side edge seems natural as I’d then receive notifications closest to me, but when flipped, the lighting display is on the opposite side, almost hidden from my view. So you’ll have to decide either to use the left side for notification display (in this instance) and when flipped the lighting shows up on the right side, or choose whether you’ll mainly have the phone upright or flipped over when not in use.
Then there’s the differences between the Note Edge and S6 Edge, in that on the former you’re able to access the edge notifications at any time with the screen on or off, whereas on the latter you’re only able to access the contact shortcut list while the screen is powered on.
And finally, one of the biggest concerns for me was the battery drain when using one feature on the Edge. That being the night clock. I figured the dimly lit timing on the edge would prove useful, much like having an alarm clock you can glance at in the event you wake up randomly in the middle of the night. This, however, proves problematic on the SGS6 Edge, as it means the display is actually powered on during the set time, increasing battery drain tremendously, and never lasted the night while this feature was selected.
Undoubtedly, the Samsung Galaxy S6 is one of, if not the, most beautiful smartphones available on the market today. There’s no avoiding that simple fact. But since we all have our own opinions, mine discussed above, it won’t be a hit with everyone that lays eyes upon it. The design and build quality is immense, and apart from the similarities to Apple’s darling, it would be hard to fault it. The curved display is also one of the most beautiful to look at when viewing movies and photos, but it, too, has some shortcomings. But not without reason. The device has a few features and functions that may prove useful to many, and gimmicks to many more. Only time will tell how successful and useful it may prove, and time should also provide us a few more updates from Samsung to no doubt add more features to its Edge.
I enjoyed the SGS6 Edge. I really did. But I’m not sure I love it enough to spend an additional R4,000 to R5,000 over the SGS6. What I didn’t touch on are the previously reviewed performance, OS changes, and camera, which you can find on the review of the SGS6 here. And these aspects to make a difference to the overall experience of the SGS6 Edge. A stronger Rand, a more competitive price point, and you’ll have an outright winner here. With costs in mind, you may want to think carefully about your purchase, the difference being mainly aesthetics. Either way, if you’re able to get around this, as well as the strange grip for the Edge, you’ll find yourself in smartphone bliss until Samsung reveals its next big thing. And as the company has already made clear, Next is Now.